Testimony on Bill to Strengthen Climate Program

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is working--now it's time to strengthen it

Environment New Hampshire's advocate, Jessica O'Hare provided testimony to the House Science Technology and Energy Committee on a bill to create a strategic energy plan for New Hampshire. The bill was amended to include a critical step forward in strengthening New Hampshire's top climate program.


Rep. David Borden, Chairman of the committee
Honorable members of the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.

Dear Representative Borden and members of the committee:

On behalf of Environment New Hampshire, I am writing to support HB306 as amended. Environment New Hampshire is a statewide citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working to defend New Hampshire’s clean air, clean water and open spaces. We have 3,000 dues-paying members and 6,000 people on our email list. We thank you for your consideration of our testimony.

I’m writing to discuss the following three things: (1) our support of Rep. Rappaport’s effort to create an energy plan and consideration of the environmental impact of transmission lines in New Hampshire; (2) our encouragement to consider SB191 that gives a more comprehensive framework for the creation of a strategic energy plan; (3) the success of our cornerstone clean energy program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and how Rep. Borden’s proposed amendment strengthens the program.

First, we support Rep. Rappaport’s effort, in so far that the state should consider the environmental impacts of transmission lines and the creation of a commission to draft an energy plan. Last year, New Hampshire witnessed a record number of extreme weather events, demonstrating the vulnerability of our energy system to blackouts. Climate change is threatening our communities, and it’s come time to consider a long term strategy for addressing New Hampshire’s energy needs.

Environment New Hampshire strongly urges the state to develop a comprehensive plan for maximizing conservation and accelerating the shift to renewable energy including distributed energy like solar. As of 2008, transportation makes up 38% of our energy use. There is a similar bill in the Senate, SB191 that also looks to establish a plan. We look forward to working with the House, Senate and the Administration to incorporate the best elements of both bills to accomplish a comprehensive energy plan for New Hampshire.

Thirdly, we support the amendment to HB306 as a way to strengthen our cornerstone clean energy program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Climate change is arguable the biggest environmental challenge that our planet faces. A recent report by Environment New Hampshire found that every county in New Hampshire was impacted by an extreme weather event last year. Mudslides across roads, torn out bridges, power outages impacted our communities and threatened safety.

Luckily, RGGI has had proven success in moving us away from the dirty energy sources that contribute to climate change and shifting us toward cleaner sources. As you know, five year ago New Hampshire demonstrated leadership in addressing fossil fuel emissions from electric power plants. In 2006, the New Hampshire Legislature passed legislation to join with nine other states in a regional compact to lower emissions from power plants and catalyze the transition to clean energy.

A report by the Analysis Group determined that RGGI has provided $1.6 billion in economic benefits across the RGGI region. By investing in energy efficiency, businesses homeowners and municipalities use less energy. Energy efficiency projects, made possible by RGGI, free up income of homeowners and businesses that would be sunk in energy costs, and lessen the tax burden used to pay for heat and electricity of our municipal buildings. Furthermore, energy conservation projects employ local residents and encourage the sale of goods for retrofits and clean energy investments. Finally, RGGI is helping reduce harmful pollution from power plants, protecting our public health from emissions and our communities from more frequent and intense storms.

Last year, New Hampshire participated in a scheduled review of the program with the participating states. The review determined that RGGI afforded significant benefits to the participating states. It also determined that by strengthening the program we could see even greater benefits.

Their economic analysis demonstrated that a stronger cap will bring more economic benefits than its weaker alternative. Investments in clean energy and efficiency from RGGI will free up $3 billion in disposable income and more jobs with a lower cap as opposed to a $654 million with a weaker model.

As part of this review, legislation is required to implement the recommendations that New Hampshire and the participating states agreed to. Thus, the amendment from Rep. Borden affords New Hampshire the added benefits of strengthening a program that works. In essence, it lowers the limit on pollution from the region’s power plants, and brings the cap in line with current emissions.

In conclusion, we support Rep. Rappaport’s intention to give more direction to New Hampshire’s energy course. In so doing, we would invite the opportunity to work with the author to ensure that the framework of this energy plan includes shifting New Hampshire towards a clean energy future. In regards to New Hampshire’s continued participation to RGGI, we support the bill as amended to strengthen a program that is a triple win for the Granite state. RGGI is helping Granite Staters lower their energy bills, reduce harmful pollution and keep energy dollars in our local economy. We ask the committee to vote ought to pass as amended.

Jessica O’Hare

Environment New Hampshire

[1] http://www.analysisgroup.com/uploadedFiles/Publishing/Articles/Economic_…

[2] http://www.rggi.org/docs//ProgramReview/November28/12_11_28_REMI_Present…